Thu 21 November 2019
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Poets well versed in the art of combat
Sameer Rahim on the traditional infighting between poetic rivals.

We all know about famous poetic friendships — Wordsworth and Coleridge, Eliot and Pound — but an equally strong tradition in English literature has been the poetic feud. In the 18th century Alexander Pope mocked the banal rhymes of his rivals: “Wher’er you find 'the cooling western breeze’, / In the next line, it 'whispers through the trees’.” The Romantics were no friendlier: Byron wrote of “Johnny Keats’ piss-a-bed poetry”.

Modern poets seem to be doing their best to keep up. After months of acrimony, the Poetry Society brouhaha seems finally to have been laid to rest this week with the resignation of Fiona Sampson, a poet who had edited the society’s magazine. She had been in dispute with the director of the society, Judith Palmer, who resigned in July.

Explanations for the dispute’s origins range from a disagreement over where their £360,000 funding from the Arts Council should be spent, or just that Sampson and Palmer didn’t get on. “I have not picked a fight with Judith Palmer,” Sampson has said, “and I’m not interested in picking a fight.”  

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The Telegraph

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